Clock ticking on AAFC consulting service

Time is running down for farmers to take advantage of a federal program that offers business consulting services at a fraction of the usual cost.

Chris Ruschowski, regional manager for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) specialized business planning services program, warned farmers in a Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food newsletter this week that the program is only funded up to March 31, 2008 under the previous federal/provincial Agriculture Policy Framework (APF). Applications to the program must be submitted by that date, he said.

Services available to farmers include an initial Farm Business Assessment, which offers five days’ worth of consulting from a financial agri-business consultant for $100 — a service normally valued at $2,500, he said.

“What they do is look at two years of previous financial records to give you a pattern of where your business is at, and then they do a scenario going forward of a change or a ‘what-if’,” he said in the provincial Farm and Food Report.

“Why wouldn’t any producer go into this program?… At worst, they are getting information that somebody else has reviewed, and they can bounce ideas off that person. Even if the feedback is that they’re going in the right direction, they’ve at least got that peace of mind, and it’s only cost them $100.”

The Farm Business Assessment is the first step to taking advantage of other funding offered by the department, Ruschowski said, for help to create business plans in areas such as marketing, human resources, succession, expansion, risk management or diversification plans. The subsidies can add up to thousands of dollars to pay for services of experts in agri-business and general business planning.

The specialized business planning services program covers up to 50 per cent of a consultant’s eligible costs for preparing the plan. In total funding over the life of the program, an individual applicant would be eligible to receive up to $8,000 in such funding. Three participants in a single plan could receive up to $24,000, while four or more could receive up to $25,000.

“Usually, it’s in the winter months when you want to do that kind of work, so right after harvest is a good time to start the process,” Ruschowski said.

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